U.S. PENITENTIARY FLORENCE, COLORADO and AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 1301
FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20424-0001
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT
EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 1301
Octavia R. Johnson
Counsel for the Respondent
Thomas Van Acker
Representative for the Charging Party
Hazel E. Hanley
Counsel for the General Counsel, FLRA
Before: GARVIN LEE OLIVER
Administrative Law Judge
The unfair labor practice complaint alleges that Respondent violated section 7116(a)(1) and (5) of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute), 5 U.S.C. §§ 7116(a)(1) and (5), by issuing and implementing an Institution Supplement, changing the practice whereby bargaining unit employees nominated and/or voted for their peers to receive three annual awards, without providing the Charging Party with advance notice and/or an opportunity to negotiate to the extent required by the Statute.
Respondent's answer admitted the allegations as to the Respondent, the Charging Party, and the charge, but denied any violation of the Statute.
For the reasons explained below, it is concluded that a preponderance of the evidence does not support the alleged violations.
A hearing was held in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The parties were represented and afforded full opportunity to be heard, adduce relevant evidence, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and file post-hearing briefs. The Respondent and General Counsel filed helpful briefs. Based on the entire record,(1) including my observation of the witnesses and their demeanor, I make the following findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations.
The Respondent, Union, and the Master Agreement
The American Federation of Government Employees, National Council of Prison Locals (AFGE) is the exclusive representa-tive of a nationwide consolidated unit of Federal Bureau of Prisons employees. The Federal Bureau of Prisons and AFGE negotiated a master collective bargaining agreement (Master Agreement) which became effective on September 1, 1992. The Charging Party, AFGE Local 1301 (Local or Union) represents unit employees at the Respondent, the U.S. Penitentiary, Florence, Colorado, an activity or component of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Article 9, "Negotiations at the Local Level," Section e of the Master Agreement provides as follows:
Institution Supplements which derive from Bureau-level policy issuances, and which change local
working conditions or personnel policies and practices for members of the unit, will be subject to
negotiation with the local Union, where required by 5 USC Sections 7106, 7114 and 7117,
subsequent to the issuance and implementation of the policy. When institution supplements are
issued, the Employer at the local level will send copies of all such supplements to the Local
President. When institution supplements are issued, the Employer will insure the Local President
receives a copy of all such supplements (i.e., through institution routing, hand delivery, etc.)
The local Union will have up to 30 days from the date of receipt to submit a written request to
negotiate. Failure to timely submit a written request to negotiate will be considered a waiver of the
local Union's right to bargain. It is understood by the parties that changes to institution supplements
which change personnel policies or practices or conditions of employment will not be made through
the use of oral or written directives outside the local Employer's formal policy issuance system.
Any other local issuances, either oral or written, which change personnel policies or practices, or
conditions of employment, shall be subject to local negotiations prior to implementation.
Awards for Correctional Officer of the Year, Correctional Worker of the Year, and Rookie of the Year
The Respondent, as a new prison facility, began acquiring employees in 1993 and received its first inmates in February 1994. Since 1994, the Respondent has celebrated National Correctional Officers week in May of each year. In May 1994, bargaining unit employees nominated and/or voted for employees to receive awards for Correctional Officer of the Year, Correctional Worker of the Year, and Rookie of the Year. The Respondent's answer admits that "[t]he practice . . . developed with the knowledge and/or acquiescence of Respondent."
1994 and 1995 Institution Supplements
On October 1, 1994, under Warden Patrick Whalen, and November 1, 1995, under Warden Joel Knowles, the Respondent issued Institution Supplement FLP3000.2-451A and B, respectively, titled, "Incentive Awards Program" (1994 Supplement and 1995 Supplement, respectively). The 1994 Supplement noted that it was rescinding Institution Supplement FLP3000.1-451A of the same title dated July 1, 1993. The 1994 and 1995 Supplements each stated that it "must be read in conjunction with Program Manual 3000.2 and Program Statement 3451.3 [BOP Incentive Awards Program, dated November 6, 1989]." The Supplements, among other things, set forth the criteria for the Correctional Officer of the Year, Correctional Worker of the Year, and Rookie of the Year "as seen by his/her peers and other staff members"(2) and provided that selections would be made by ballot to the Human Resources Manager.
On each occasion the Union either was provided by the Respondent, or learned of, the 1994 and 1995 Supplements, and was satisfied with the changes that were made (which were unrelated to the issue herein), and did not request to bargain. In May of 1995, Dale Lewsader, President of the Union, and former Chief Steward Malcolm Lane received tie votes by their peers as Correctional Officer of the Year and each received the award. Receiving the approval of peers in this manner was considered very significant by Lewsader and added to the honor of the award.
The 1996 Institution Supplement
On April 15, 1996, Warden Joel Knowles issued and implemented Institution Supplement FLP3000.2-451C, titled "Incentive Awards Program" (1996 Supplement). The Supplement rescinded the previous supplement and again noted that it "must be read in conjunction with Program Manual 3000.2 and Program Statement 3451.3 [BOP Incentive Awards Program, dated November 6, 1989]." The 1996 Supplement changed the procedure for selection of Correctional Officer of the Year, Correctional Worker of the Year, and Rookie of the Year. No longer were they to be selected by the vote of their peers and other staff. The Correctional Officer of the Year would be nominated by the Captain and Lieutenants and selected by the Warden and Associate Wardens. The Correctional Worker of the Year would be nominated by Department Managers and selected by the Warden and Associate Wardens, and the Rookie of the Year would be nominated by the Department Heads and selected by the Warden and Associate Wardens.
The Warden and the executive staff decided to make the changes because they concluded (1) that the balloting process had become a popularity contest; (2) the previous awardees were not reflective of the standards in the supplement; (3) the relatively inexperienced staff did not have access to the performance levels of the individuals for whom they were voting; and (4) supervisors and department heads had more direct knowledge of the overall performance and contributions of particular staff members.
No Advance Notice to Union
The Respondent did not give the Union advance notice of the issuance and implementation of the 1996 Supplement on April 15, 1996, basing that decision on Article 9, Section e of the Master Agreement. The Respondent did provide the Union a copy on April 22, 1996.
On May 7, 1996, the Union advised the Respondent that it had not been given the opportunity to negotiate the changes in the Supplement. The Union objected to the selection by management for the three awards instead of by the vote of peers and requested to know when ballots would be given to the staff under the previous procedure.
1996 Awards Made
On May 8, 1996, the awards for Correctional Officer of the Year, Correctional Worker of the Year and Rookie of the Year were made by the Respondent without any vote by employees and pursuant to the 1996 Supplement.
Post-Implementation Bargaining Offered
On May 9, 1996, the Respondent informed the Union that the changes set forth in the 1996 Supplement were used in making the selections for the 1996 awards. The Union was advised to contact management if it desired to negotiate on the Supplement. The Union did not request or desire to engage in post-implementation bargaining. Instead, it filed the unfair labor practice charge on May 17, 1996.
Positions of the Parties
The General Counsel contends that the Respondent violated
section 7116(a)(1) and (5) of the Statute by issuing and implementing the 1996 Institution Supplement, thereby changing the practice whereby bargaining unit employees nominated and/or voted for their peers to receive three annual awards, without providing the Union with advance notice and/or an opportunity to negotiate to the extent required by the Statute. The General Counsel contends that the Union had 30 days to submit its request to negotiate and did not have adequate advance notice between receipt of the Supplement on April 22, 1996, submission of its request on May 7, 1996, and the Respondent's presentation of awards pursuant to the new Supplement on May 8, 1996. The General Counsel requests status quo ante relief and remedial training in the Statute for the responsible management officials and supervisors.
The Respondent defends on the basis that it acted in accordance with Article 9, Section e of the Master Agreement by issuing and implementing the 1996 Institution Supplement, sending it to the Union, and being willing to negotiate subsequent to the issuance and implementation of the Supplement upon receiving a request from the Union within 30 days of receipt. The Respondent also contended at the hearing that it did not change working conditions or personnel policies and practices for members of the unit but only the process by which such awards were made.
Duty to Negotiate
Section 7116(a)(5) of the Statute makes it an unfair labor practice for an agency to fail or refuse to bargain in good faith with an exclusive representative of its employees. As a result, an agency must provide the exclusive representa-tive with notice of proposed changes in conditions of employment affecting unit employees and an opportunity to bargain over those aspects of the changes that are negotiable and not covered by or contained in an agreement between the parties. Department of the Army, U.S. Army Soldier Support Center, Fort Benjamin Harrison, Office of the Director of Finance and Accounting, Indianapolis, Indiana, 48 FLRA 6, 2l (1993), vacated in part on other grounds, 56 F.3d 273 (D.C. Cir. 1995).
Change in Condition of Employment
The determination of whether a change in conditions of employment occurred involves an inquiry into the facts and circumstances regarding the Respondent's conduct and employees' conditions of employment. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, Washington, D.C. and Michigan Airway Facilities Sector, Belleville, Michigan, 44 FLRA 482, 493 n.3 (1992). The Respondent acknowledges that the 1996 Institution Supplement changed the practice whereby bargaining unit employees have nominated and/or voted for employees to receive the three awards. (General Counsel's Exh. 1(h), Amended Answer, paragraph 1). The Authority has held that a proposal relating to incentive awards concerns a condition of employment within the meaning of section 7103(a)(14) of the Statute. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, St. Louis, Missouri, 50 FLRA 378, 379-80 (1995)(holding award program a condition of employment and that agency violated the Statute by terminating the employee of the month award program without prior bargaining with the union over the substance, impact and implementation of that decision). See also International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local No. 1 and U.S. Department of the Navy, Norfolk Naval Shipyard, 38 FLRA 1589, 1593 (1991) and National Treasury Employees Union and Internal Revenue Service, 27 FLRA 132, 136-37 (1987)(incentive award proposals concerned conditions of employment). Therefore, a change occurred in this case which involved a condition of employment. The remaining inquiry is whether the parties' collective bargaining agreement allowed the Respondent's action.
The Authority's Approach
In U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration, Baltimore, Maryland, 47 FLRA 1004 (1993) (SSA), the Authority established a three-pronged approach for determining whether it should sustain a respondent's assertion that it has no duty to bargain based on the terms of the existing negotiated agreement. First, the Authority looks to the express language of the provision of the agreement to determine whether it reasonably encompasses the subject in dispute. Id. at 1018. In this connection, an exact congruence of the language is not required. Id. Thus, the requisite similarity will be found if a "reasonable reader would conclude that the provision settles the [subject] in dispute." Id. If the provision does not expressly encompass the subject in dispute, the second prong will be applied. In this regard, the Authority determines whether the subject in dispute is "'inseparably bound up with and . . . thus [is] plainly an aspect of . .